Rudd opens the office door. He has only a few minutes to check through emails.
On the table in the far corner of the room the old computer screen gleams dull black. A white envelope is propped up against it. He picks it up, and sees the word URGENT written in Tonderai’s carefully blocked handwriting. He tears the envelope open, and flicks through the pages inside, reading them fast. Then he begins again, more slowly this time.
“Cyclone Ipsos … heading straight towards Beira.”
Beira? Does Tonderai have family there?
Rudd hasn’t been at the lodge long – a little over a year. It’s his first job in management, and he knows that he’s only survived thanks to the support of Tonderai, his most experienced, and respected member of staff.
If you go Tonderai, I don’t know what I’m going to do. This wedding is a big deal. It’s the only big one we’ve got.
The lodge needs funds desperately. Rudd begins to sweat. He struggles to concentrate on the papers, his mind throwing curses at the country, at the lack of fuel, at the lack of cash, at the lack of everything. And at the cyclone. Or rather at the people who predicted it. He tries to calm down. To focus.
Right. Tonderai. Let’s think about this. Okay. No. Of course. He’s not from Mozambique. He’s been here forever. They told me that when I started. His mother used to work here. Father killed in the war I think. Brother in Mutare. So what then?
Rudd turns back to the papers.
What’s the worry with this cyclone? Mozambique gets them all the time.
It’s on the back of the last page, on his third flip through, that he sees the grainy map, predicting the path of Ipsos. Marked in red ballpoint, at the tip of the cyclone’s reach, is the lodge. He goes back to the start, and reads again, more slowly this time.
“… Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System … Beira … unprecedented flooding … edge of cyclone reaching Zimbabwe …” … okay, but not here … surely? We never get them here. Might reach Mutare, but not us. No. No way. They never do. Never will.
He rubs a hand around his neck.
Maybe it’s the timings bothering Tonderai. Right over the wedding. Aagh … I’m not bothered. These guys are just doing they’re job.
He slaps the papers down on the far corner of the desk, and sits down. As he leans over to switch on the computer, there is a knock on the door and Tonderai comes into the room. He looks worried.
“Our London visitor happy?” Rudd asks, his tone light, and his focus back on the screen.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023